Vestiges of a Lost Carolingian Bible Discovered at Princeton

Ink offset on the upper board of EXI Oversize 5707.674q

The fifteenth-century binding of Princeton University Library’s copy of Nicolaus de Ausmo, Supplementum Summae Pisanellae et Canones poenitentiales (Venice: Franciscus Renner, de Heilbronn and Nicolaus de Frankfordia, 1474), preserves the ghostly remains of one of the greatest of all lost books: the ninth-century “Tours Bible” of Trier, a large-format manuscript written at Tours ca. 835 as part of the religious reforms initiated by Charlemagne (742–814), later deposited at the Imperial Benedictine Abbey of St Maximin in Trier, only to be discarded for use as binding waste in Trier during the fifteenth century.

Since the closure of the St Maximin in Trier in 1802, approximately 85 fragments from this lost Carolingian Bible have come to light, all within fifteenth-century book bindings from this monastery’s library. Many are preserved in Trier’s Stadtbibliothek, while others are in Vienna, London, Berlin, Bonn, Koblenz, Walberberg, and three institutions in the United States: Indiana University’s Lilly Library, Cornell University’s Olin Library, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Carolingian ink offset on the lower board, reversed and enhanced image.

Princeton’s vestiges of this lost Carolingian Bible are neither a full vellum leaf nor a small fragment, but rather the reversed offset of ninth-century minuscule script, written in red and black ink, which has adhered to the Trier binding’s bare wooden boards, formerly covered by two vellum fragments from the discarded Tours Bible, which were removed at an unknown date. Decipherable with the aid of enhanced digital images shown in reverse, the preserved text consists of the Latin chapter summaries for 4 Kings (IV Regum), which would have preceded the beginning of that biblical book. The vellum leaf that bore this offset text, which was cut into two pieces and pasted down horizontally across the interior surfaces of the upper and lower boards, appears not to have survived. Thus, the offset in the Princeton binding is the only witness to its existence and the only record of its contents.

Detail of the Moutier-Grandval Bible. London, The British Library © British Library Board.

Some idea of the lost Tours Bible from Trier may be obtained by comparing the offset discovered at Princeton to the same biblical text in the ninth-century “Moutier-Grandval Bible” at the British Library, one of the greatest of all surviving Carolingian manuscripts. In both bibles, a red-ink rubric reads “Incipit capitulatio de Libro regum quarto,” while a series of Roman chapter numerals and initial Ds written in red ink descends the left side of the column. The script and spacing exhibited in each of the bibles is closely comparable, suggesting that they were produced within the same scriptorium.

Comparison of the Princeton offset (top) and Moutier-Grandval Bible in London (bottom).

Inscription on f. 1r

The Princeton copy of Nicolaus de Ausmo, printed in Venice in 1474, reached St Maximin in Trier soon after its publication. There, presumably during the later 1470s, it was inscribed “Ex libris Imperialis Monasterij S. Maximinj” and was bound (with the Carolingian Bible fragments) in wooden boards covered with blind-tooled calfskin; one of the tools impressed into the leather verifies its early provenance, bearing the words “Codex sancti Maximini.”

Detail of binding: “Codex sancti Maximini” stamp

 

 

When St Maximin in Trier was dissolved in 1802, many of its library’s books went to the local Stadtbibliothek, but many others were scattered to the four winds. The Nicolaus de Ausmo of 1474, along with several other books from St Maximin, became part of the collection of Joseph von Görres (1776–1848), a German writer and historian in Koblenz. His collection of printed books was sold by Süddeutsches Antiquariat in Munich (Katalog 32, dated 1903 [i.e. 1902]), no. 2. The catalogue entry mentioned the book’s provenance from St Maximin in Trier, but not the Carolingian binding waste or its offset. The book was owned next by Edward Duff Balken (1874–1960), Princeton Class of 1897, who presented it to Princeton University Library in 1940. The Carolingian offset was discovered and identified by Eric White on March 29, 2018, during preparations for a meeting of RBSC’s Rare Books Working Group, an informal book history workshop for interested Princeton University graduate students.

For further reading:

Die Touronische Bibel der Abtei St. Maximin vor Trier: Faksimile der erhaltenen Blätter… Ed. Reiner Nolden (Trier, 2002).

Florentine Mütherich, “Die Touronische Bibel von St. Maximin in Trier,” in: Studies in Carolingian Manuscript Illumination (London, 2004), 341-60.

Princeton Acquires Hidden Gutenbergian Donatus Leaf

“Time will bring to light whatever is hidden” – Horace

We first met online: When this 1483 Venice edition of the poetic works of Horace was offered on a bookseller’s website on August 31, 2017, my eyes were drawn quickly away from its handsome Venetian typography to behold the narrow strip of vellum binding waste visible at the left side of his online image. Although neither the bookseller nor any previous owner had noticed it before, this strip was printed with the typeface used to print the Gutenberg Bible! Minutes later, Princeton had purchased the Horace, and when the book arrived, I was pleased to discover that there were actually two of these narrow vellum strips, one at the front and one at the back, folded and sewn into the binding around the first and last quires of the Horace. It was decided that Princeton’s paper conservator, Ted Stanley, should lift the old paper paste-downs inside each cover, and indeed this revealed much broader extensions of both of the vellum strips, still glued down onto the 15th-century wooden boards.

Above: Horace (65–8 BCE). Opera, with commentary by Cristoforo Landino. (Venice: Johannes de Gregoriis, de Forlivio, et Socii, 17 May 1483), as offered online in 2017.

Ted Stanley’s blog:

Revealing Gutenbergian Text

The results of Ted Stanley’s work are seen below, in photography by Roel Muñoz:


Front board and leaf following first quire, inverted to show the printed fragment.

 


Back board and leaf preceding final quire, inverted to show the printed fragment.

 

The two vellum fragments, now fully revealed except for two narrow widths that remains folded around the first and last six leaves of the Horace, constitute a complete leaf (folio 11 of 13) from a previously unknown 33-line edition of the Ars minor of Aelius Donatus (fl. 4th century CE), the essential Latin grammar used in medieval schools. Although it utilizes Johannes Gutenberg’s types, this edition most likely was printed by Gutenberg’s former colleagues in Mainz, Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer (or by Schoeffer alone).

Left: Composite image of the visible portions of the Donatus leaf, still bound inside the Horace.

 

Whereas the red markings throughout the Donatus fragments were added by hand, the blue chapter initial A on the fragment at the back of the Horace was printed by the press in blue ink containing indigo. This feature helps to date the Donatus  edition to no earlier than 1457, when Fust and Schoeffer first introduced colored initials, including the identical A, in their famous Mainz Psalter.

Thus, a few decades after the Donatus was printed, a bookbinder saw fit to recycle the schoolbook in order to provide supports for the binding of the Horace. The rubrication of the Horace is German in style, not Italian. This strongly suggests that the book was imported to Germany from Venice at an early date. The use of a printed leaf from Mainz as binding waste likewise suggests that the Horace was bound in Germany. Moreover, an inscription by an early owner, Johann Ogier (Freiherr) Faust von Aschaffenburg (1577-1631) of Frankfurt am Main, suggests that city, with its important international book fair, as the likeliest location for the demise of the Donatus, and the binding of the Horace.

Today, no copies of any Mainz edition of the Donatus survive intact, and even such small typographic specimens as this are fabulously rare – the last time a Gutenberg-type Donatus fragment was discovered was in 1973. However, what is most important is that the present fragments were found in situ, and Princeton intends to leave them where they belong. These are the only known Mainz Donatus fragments that are still preserved within the binding that constitutes their original datable context, and it is this unique circumstance that provides important information about the lives – and deaths – of Europe’s earliest printed books.

Eric White, PhD
Acting Curator of Rare Books
Princeton University Library

Princeton Acquires a Vellum Fragment of the Gutenberg Bible Preserved as a Book Cover

Biblia Latina (The 42-Line Bible). [Mainz: Johannes Gutenberg, c. 1455].

Princeton University Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is pleased to announce the acquisition of the most significant specimen of the ‘Gutenberg Bible’ discovered during this century. This single leaf printed on vellum (calfskin) is a remarkable survival from what is widely considered the first book printed in Europe: the large folio Latin Bible that demonstrated the immense potential of the typographic method that Johannes Gutenberg, with financial backing from Johann Fust, developed in Mainz during the early 1450s. Given that Princeton University has been a leading center for Gutenberg-related studies ever since 1958, when the Scheide Library and its beautifully preserved two-volume paper copy of this Bible were deposited in Firestone Library (the collection was bequeathed to Princeton by William H. Scheide in 2014), the new vellum fragment provides welcome additional avenues for research into the early history of printing in the West.1

The fragment owes its survival to the fact that – more than two centuries after the Bible was printed, and long after its historical significance had been forgotten – its vellum was considered useful as recycled waste from which to make book covers. Although this grim fate once was common among obsolete books of all descriptions, this is in fact the only specimen of the Gutenberg Bible still preserved as a book binding ever to appear on the rare book market. Clearly, a discarded copy of the Gutenberg Bible was cut into hundreds of pieces for this purpose – but where, and when? The Princeton fragment itself provides evidence of unusual specificity, as it still encloses a copy of the Erneuerte und verbesserte Landes- und Procesz-Ordnung, an ordinance of litigation within the Electorate of Saxony, printed at Cöthen, Germany, in 1666. Moreover, a contemporary inscription indicates that the slender quarto volume was owned by the noted jurist Adam Cortrejus (1637–1706), who earned his doctorate at Jena in 1666, long served as Syndic in Halle, and died in Magdeburg. This owner’s limited itinerary and the strictly local interest of the Cöthen law book both suggest that the bindery of this book – and likewise the lost Gutenberg Bible – should be localized to Saxony-Anhalt, northwest of Leipzig, during the last decades of seventeenth century.

This localization is especially interesting in light of Eric White’s previous research, published in 2010, concerning several dozen other vellum fragments of the Gutenberg Bible that survive as binding waste.2 Categorized by their distinct styles of rubrication (headlines, initials, and chapter numerals added by hand), these fall into eleven groups, each localized to the region in which they first were discovered, or were used as binding waste. One such group, consisting of six identically rubricated leaves, includes three leaves found in 1819 on two different bindings at the Landes- und Universitätsbibliothek in Dresden, two leaves at the Grolier Club in New York City owned by Friedrich Barnheim at Insterburg in 1867, another leaf sold by the Leipzig antiquarian Theodor Oswald Weigel by 1865 (now at the Museo Correr in Venice), as well as a leaf from Apocalypse formerly at the Universitätsbibliothek in Breslau, now lost. Dr. White localized this otherwise lost Gutenberg Bible to the vicinity of Dresden and predicted that any yet-to-be-discovered fragments exhibiting the same rubrication style very likely would hail from that same region. The fact that the rubrication exhibited by the Princeton fragment closely matches that of the Dresden group indicates that all seven fragments derive from the same lost Bible. Moreover, the three German towns associated with Princeton’s binding – Cöthen, Halle, and Magdeburg – are just to the northwest of Dresden and Leipzig.

Front cover, turned sideways, showing the rubricated initial and the chapter numeral v.

Initial F on the Princeton binding.                            Initial F on a fragment found in Dresden.

Detail of front cover, showing rubricated headline PA RA [-lipomenon], i.e., I Chronicles.

Detail of headline P found in Dresden.                          Detail of headline A found in Leipzig.

The Princeton binding was discovered by Stefan Krüger, a bookseller in Cologne, within an unexamined mixed lot of mainly 19th-century law books auctioned in Bonn c. 2006. Krüger made no announcement of his discovery until November 2016, when he advertised online that the binding would be sold on January 26, 2017, at the 31st annual Ludwigsburg Antiquaria, held near Stuttgart. In accordance with the traditions of that fair, the item would be available at a substantial (but by no means inflated) fixed price to the first applicant, or, in the event of a broader interest, to the winner of a lottery among those in attendance.

Chaos ensued on the first day of the Ludwigsburg fair, where at least 76 bidders (including Princeton’s Curator of Rare Books) drew lots for the item. The winning number belonged to a member of a consortium of German dealers headed by the independent bookseller Detlev Auvermann, an emigré to London who formerly had worked for Quaritch, Ltd. He agreed to Princeton’s immediate request for ‘first refusal’ upon determination of his sale price. While Princeton University Library administrators contemplated this major purchase, Auvermann expressed his intention to offer the item at the annual New York Book Antiquarian Book Fair beginning on March 9, 2017. The negotiations formalizing Princeton’s acquisition were completed at the end of February, and Auvermann was able to display the binding at the New York fair, marked ‘sold.’ Princeton took possession of the item on March 12.

Although the surface of the Bible fragment is somewhat abraded and stained, as is usual for vellum leaves used as book coverings, the condition of the binding is excellent; the structure is intact, and the connections between the spine and the covers are strong. Internally, the 1666 Cöthen law book is in very good original condition. A new clam-shell box covered in navy blue Asahi backcloth was created by Princeton’s Collections Conservator, Lindsey Hobbs.

Today, 36 paper copies and 12 vellum copies of the Gutenberg Bible survive reasonably intact, either as complete Bibles or as incomplete bound volumes. Added to these are an incomplete paper copy dismantled in 1920 for sale as individual books or single leaves, and three copies on paper and eleven copies on vellum known only from binding waste. The study of the impact of early printing in Europe is well served by giving closer scholarly attention to the fourteen copies, including the one represented by Princeton’s fragment, that may not survive in the form of books, but which do survive, nevertheless.

VALUE TO RESEARCH AND INSTRUCTION AT PRINCETON

Like William Scheide himself, Princeton’s librarians, particularly the successive Scheide Librarians, have researched and published on many aspects of Gutenberg’s invention and the earliest printed books. Moreover, Princeton’s faculty have embedded book history into the university’s curriculum and are training their undergraduate and graduate students to approach the discipline with open-minded curiosity and direct experience of the original artifacts. This major acquisition is intended to continue and enrich that tradition:

  • Princeton’s acquisition of the Gutenberg fragment brings a historically unique and physically ‘at risk’ survival from the first European printing enterprise into permanent institutional protection.
  • Whereas all other Gutenberg Bible leaves discovered since 1900 have been removed from their host bindings, destroying historical evidence, Princeton’s purchase of this specimen establishes forever the premium value of leaving early binding waste intact.
  • Contributing to an emerging field of book history research – the loss of books – this ‘miraculous’ fragmentary survival effectively encapsulates the extreme fluctuations in the Gutenberg Bible’s historical fortune over five centuries.
  • To a degree unsurpassed by any similar specimen, this fragment and its host volume document the time and place at which an otherwise lost copy of the Gutenberg Bible was discarded for use as waste material for book bindings.
  • The physical states of the Gutenberg Bible in Princeton’s Scheide Library and this the fragment perfectly complement each other: two paper volumes in their original binding preserved in benign neglect in Erfurt until 1840 vs. a vellum fragment from a copy cut apart by a binder c. 1666. No American library holds a similar pairing.
  • Prior to this acquisition, Princeton owned the Scheide copy of the Gutenberg Bible and 19 paper leaves from 3 others (worldwide, only the Morgan Library represents as many copies). The addition of this fragment introduces a specimen printed on vellum and provides the unique opportunity to analyze the varied rubrication and provenance evidence of five copies of the Gutenberg Bible in one library.

Call #: (ExI) 2017-0006N

https://pulsearch.princeton.edu/catalog/10138910

 

Eric White, PhD
Curator of Rare Books
Princeton University Library

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              1 Paul Needham, The Invention and Early Spread of European Printing as Represented in the Scheide Library (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Library, 2007).

              2 Eric Marshall White, ‘The Gutenberg Bibles that Survive as Binder’s Waste’, in Early Printed Books as Material Objects. Proceedings of the Conference Organized by the IFLA Rare Books and Manuscripts Section. Munich, 19-21 August 2009. Bettina Wagner and Marcia Reed, eds. (Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 2010), 21-35.